Light trails are seen at night when you let a light source move across the frame while the shutter is open for more than a few seconds. One of the most common and pleasing sources of these light trails is traffic!
Custom House, Dublin.
The first thing you need to produce a light trail shot is of course a source of the light trail. Usually an area where the traffic is frequent is best so any city street corner will do. In terms of equipment, the most important thing you will need is a tripod. And a steady one at that.
When setting the camera up I always shoot light trails in Aperture Priority mode and set the aperture between f11 and f14. You need to have the aperture set as such to give a shutter speed of about 8 - 15 seconds while keeping the exposure correct for the background. Firing off a test shot to ensure the background is correctly exposed is always a good idea. The camera should also be set to a low ISO to prevent too much noise in the long exposure.
Ulster Bank, Dublin.
When your set and composed and have fired off your test shot, you are ready to go. Ideally you will use a remote shutter release to fire the camera but if this is not possible you can use the timer on your camera, this will prevent camera shake. Once the traffic is about to move across your frame, fire the camera and watch as the traffic passes and leaves wonderful light trails across the scene. The traffic will be moving at sufficient speed that you will never see cars or buses in your picture. For added interest look at trying to capture emergency vehicles to add blue lights to the traditional red and white colours.
N11 motorway, Wicklow.
The most important thing when attempting to capture light trails is to have patience. It will take many shots to get the composition just right, the traffic perfect and the exposure exactly as you want it. But all that patience will deliver results you will be truly happy with.
All the best,